Richardson saga highlights NBA problem

(Fox Sports) – The sad reality about today’s NBA scene is that money concerns often over-ride the search for talent.

This year’s example is Quentin Richardson, who has experienced more scene changes than the Stanley Cup during the summer of 2009.

While shooting his way to within a year of free agency, Richardson has become the league’s defining character.

Richardson’s travels date back to June 25, a simpler time when he was employed by the New York Knicks as a shooting guard.

Richardson had one year and roughly $9 million remaining on a contract that should be credited to the Phoenix Suns and Mike D’Antoni’s system. However he was swapped on NBA Draft day for notorious Memphis Grizzlies center Darko Milicic.

Darko, it should be noted, has one year and $7.5 million left on his deal, which suggests that the deal seemed like a basketball-related trade for the cap-clearing Knicks.

Then on July 8 Richardson would pack his bags again as he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers (his original NBA team) in exchange for the huge contract and voluminous baggage of 20 point, 10 rebound machine Zach Randolph.

The teams weren’t required to come within 10 percent of each other in salary swaps because the Grizzlies were under the salary cap and seemed content to use that space on Randolph.

Almost two whole weeks later, the Clips used Richardson’s contract to bring in three inexpensive pieces from the Minnesota Timberwolves; one of those depth-creating players is Sebastian Telfair.

On August 13, the T-Wolves used Richardson to snag backup center Mark Blount (and his expiring $7 million contract) from the Miami Heat.

If he remains with the Heat, Richardson will attempt to earn his living sniping from long range after kick-outs from Dwayne Wade.

To be fair the four trades of Richardson include some players that could create minor on-court impacts. But for the most part he was moved in an attempt to dump his salary. Sadly he is not alone this summer.

One player in a similar position is the great Shaquille O’Neal, who’s taking his expiring, $20 million contract to Cleveland, where the Cavs were delighted to jettison high-priced Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix.

The Atlanta Hawks were able to acquire Jamal Crawford for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton when the Golden State Warriors decided two more years and almost $20 million was too much to pay for Jamal.

In addition the handsomely remunerated Richard Jefferson was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks to the San Antonio Spurs.

It certainly will be interesting to see how those cost-effective manoeuvres will influence what occurs on the court. If recent predecessors to these ‘dump deals’ can be used as reference points, the impact could be huge.

One big example is the Grizzlies’ trade of relatively pricey Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers for the expiring contract of Kwame Brown and two other prospects (including Gasol’s little brother Marc).

The acquisition of Gasol made the Lakers a top-tier team and – more importantly – made Kobe Bryant happy.

Another important move came early last season by the Denver Nuggets, who rid themselves of Allen Iverson and his expiring deal worth $21 million.

Iverson was traded to the Detroit Pistons, who used the extra money to snag Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in free agency. To get Iverson the Pistons had to part with leader Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess.

The Pistons were convinced that Billups’ best days were behind him. The Nuggets, on the other hand, expected Chauncey to be a much better play-making fit than Iverson.

Sometimes those cost-cutting measures leave a bitter taste. For example, the thrifty Phoenix Suns waved bye-bye to their sole post defender in Kurt Thomas back in a 2007 deal with Seattle that also cost them two conditional first-round picks.

Ultimately the practice of trading players with little regard to on-court consequences is unseemly. In many ways salary caps and luxury taxes compromise the integrity of the league.

Yet the efficacy of cap-and-tax systems throughout professional sports will remain a debate from now until kingdom come.